JUST ANOTHER HOLE IN THE GROUND
Every now and then I get a really odd little story that catches my attention for its oddity and its "high octane speculatability" (if I may be permitted to coin that term). This little article that was shared by N. is one of them:
The headline of this article says it all, why indeed is China sponsoring a dig six miles down into the Earth's crust? Some of the answers, contained in the article, strike me as the usual practice in such cases: "create a plausible narrative to disguise the real motivations and possibilities":
Chinese scientists broke ground Tuesday on a planned 10,000-meter (32,808) foot hole into the Earth's crust - the country's deepest ever borehole according to Bloomberg, citing the Xinhua state-run news agency.
The shaft will penetrate over 10 continental strata, or layers of rock, and will reach the cretaceous system in the earth's crust which dates back some 145 million years. The project will provide data on Earth's internal structure, as well as prove up underground drilling technologies, according to China's National Petroleum Corp., which is in charge of the 457-day project.
"The construction difficulty of the drilling project can be compared to a big truck driving on two thin steel cables," said Sun Jinsheng, a scientist at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, in a statement to Xinhua.
President Xi Jinping called for greater progress in deep Earth exploration in a speech addressing some of the nation’s leading scientists in 2021. -Bloomberg
The current record for a hole bored into the earth is the Russian Kola Superdeep Borehole, which has a recorded depth of 40,230 feet (12,262 meters) and was completed in 1989 after 20 years of drilling.
For reference, the earth's crust is an average of 30 km (19 miles) thick.
And that is the hole article (pardon my pun, but I simply couldn't resist).
So China is boring a hole into the Earth about six miles deep, and Russia has already one over seven miles deep some time ago on the Kola peninsula near the Arctic circle. The question is: why?
Here the public explanations make a lot of sense: to improve deep drilling techniques, enhance our geophysical knowledge of the Earth's crust and its geophysical properties. But once we get to that last bit, that's where the public explanations leave off, and my high octane speculation motor clicks into overdrive. Such holes would provide an opportunity to lower gear designed to take careful measurements of how the crust behaves during p-waves of compression and rarefaction measuring through it, and how the differing compositions of the crust would impact such waves, geophysical knowledge that would be quite important to a variety of uses: signal propagation through the Earth, deep penetration tomography development and technology, earthquake prediction (and design!), and other types of weaponization possibilities.
What captured my attention here, however, was the reference to a speech by Chinese leader Xi Jinping calling for "greater progress in deep Earth exploration." There can be little doubt that there is vast wealth and resources to be tapped down there, right under our feet. I would venture to offer the possibility, however, that there are exotic forms of common minerals down there, exotic forms brought about perhaps by the extreme conditions under which they have been formed. One might be able to run computer programs predicting the possible types of minerals one would find, and whether or not their lattice structure would remain stable under surface conditions, and so on. But this is my point, and perhaps the hidden motivation for Mr. Xi's exploration comment: we know little beyond what geophysical theory has told us about the interior of our beautiful planet. The movie Core starring Aaron Eckhardt hints at this possibility to some extent, but only hints. We won't actually know until we go down, and see.
And that brings me to an "extension" of my high octane speculation: drilling such deep bores is, suspect, a necessary step in the technology tree to something much more ambitious: actual deep Earth construction, and by extension of that hypothesis, exploration and mining. I come from a state were there was once a large operating gold mine which closed only a few decades ago after the mine was no longer profitable to operate. What was left was a large hole in the ground, and shafts about a mile and a half deep. As mines, go, it's fairly deep.
But imagine not just the ability to mine far deeper - six to ten miles, or possibly, even beyond the crust of the Earth and into its mantle - and for that matter, to build human habitations and other such facilities so deep underground, and you get the idea. For hardened and very secret military sites, Deep Earth construction would be ideal.
Such possibilities raise still others: perhaps they're looking for something, doing a form of deep Earth archaeology, as it were. Or perhaps they're trying to find explanations for phenomena like the Guatemala "sink hole", which looks to me to be far too much like a very large bore hole, and not like a sink hole at all, and especially not one formed for any of the reasons advanced in this National Geographic article attempting to "explain" it:
(Now I ask you: does that look like your average sinkhole? Pumice fill and a leaky pipe as the explanation? Then why did no such hole form long before, and on a much smaller scale, as would be likely if that were the explanation, &c &c?)
With all the weirdness on the surface of the planet, and above it, maybe we need to be paying more attention to what's happening under our feet, and maybe the Russians and Chinese have some ideas about that, and their big holes have purposes other than the ones they've advanced publicly, plausible as those are... Whatever is going on, we may be certain that the Chinese are not drilling such a deep hole just for the kicks and giggles of "pure raw science." There are practical long term goals in view. Of that we may be certain.
See you on the flip side...
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